The Red Cloud

Red Clouds - Oracle Red Stack in the Cloud by BloomThink
Creative Commons Attribution by Flickr user tipiro

It is Oracle Open World 2012 and this year the theme is cloud.  There are the obligatory 12″c” (the c is for cloud) release announcements.  There are the staggering statistics (10,000 Oracle Cloud customers already).  At Oracle Open World 2012, the cloud is red.

Over the last year Oracle has acquired no fewer than 5 cloud companies (and their customers!) and there is a reasonable argument that at least 3 more of the last year’s acquisitions at least play in the cloud.  Oracle would have us believe that they are the defacto leader in the cloud space and have always been there.

While there is certainly geek credibility to the cloud technology Oracle has acquired, their claim to the lofty king of the cloud crown they covet is a bit premature.

Oracle must prove that they’re doing more than following trends and buying market share by gaining new native cloud customers and addressing specific business challenges in uniquely cloudy ways.  If there is no net benefit to using Oracle’s HCM in the cloud, crowing about it lacks impact.  It’s like being excited you rent midsize cars from Avis now instead of Hertz.  Yawn.

R Ray Wang Tweets About The Cloud image captured by BloomThinkPartners can take advantage of the wealth of techno-api-gadgetry that all falls under the Oracle Red Cloud Stack now and build some truly amazing business solutions.  But it is still a bit early to see those taking hold in the market place.

R Ray Wang of Constellation Research has been tweeting up a storm and has this forward looking statement about the cloud, “MyPOV: Prediction: enter the cloud suites. we’ll have made the Cloud Best of Breed hell to Cloud suite journey by 2015”  Right now it is my POV that Oracle has gathered some of the best of breed capabilities under one corporate banner, but we’re still a long way away from a suite.  After all, a collection of rooms spread out across different geographies, in different styles and with little coordinated “flow” between them does not a suite make.  This is why I believe it is up to the developers and partners to spur outcomes.

It is the focus on outcomes, not “stacks”, not “solutions”, not brochure ware.  So keep an eye out for outcomes…from partners…that use part or all of the Oracle Something-as-a-Service.  Meanwhile, contact BloomThink for help with your social business strategy.

Here are important Oracle and Related Links:

Oracle Cloud Homepage

Oracle Cloud Services Portfolio

Social Networks and the Cloud

The Oracle Apps, Mobile & Cloud Strategy

Wired’s take on the Oracle Cloud

GigaOM’s take on the Oracle Cloud vs Amazon

Social Listening vs Traditional Marketing – Understanding The Oracle Acquisition of Collective Intellect

Social Listening with BloomThink
Creative Commons Attribution via Flickr User Visualpanic

In the world of impulse consumerism you can attempt to stay top of mind through saturation marketing (expensive) or you can compel a transaction with artificial limits on deals, quantities or geographies (difficult) or you can become top of mind by entering with a splash at the right time (data-intensive).

The first approach is the traditional media marketing approach.  Big spending gets eyeballs some of those eyeballs belong to people who will want your product.  But you have got to gain volume and maintain attention with no way to actually track a sale.  Look at the image.  The first approach tells the world that they have tetris tiles available and hopes that someone needs one.

The second is the coupon / contest approach. Getting people off the couch to get to an event or to change buying habits is difficult.  The payoff of the contest or the discount on the product has to be extremely steep in order to compel the desired behavior.  It’s the Black Friday deal which gains awareness and attention but the profits are often slim if there at all.  Hope is placed in down-stream purchases from newly loyal customers.  Look at the image again.  The second approach tells the world to stock up now during their 2-for-1 tetris tiles sale…you know, in case you ever need a tetris tile piece.

The third approach is the engagement approach.  Understand what the consumer needs and when they are almost ready to make a decision then present your deal, your product, your offer.  This is the intelligence-drive approach. With enough data in aggregate about consumer trends and the ability to engage with individual consumers via social channels businesses are able to deliver compelling and persuasive information at the right time.  The third approach listens and watches for when people share that they’re remodeling and repairing their bathroom and need some tetris tiles.  They then let that prospective consumer know that they have exactly what is needed and that it is convenient to buy.  The hope-based approach of market saturation is traded for precise targeting.  The profit-gutting approach of behavior modification marketing is traded for persuasive and timely information delivery

This third approach is behind all good social media campaigns and it is a big reason why there has been a mass of acquisitions in the social media monitoring space.

Social media monitoring is all about “listening” to what is being said about you, your products and the market space in why your business exists.  Oracle’s most recent acquisition of Collective Intellect directly supports this social listening and BI approach.  Collective Intellect brings deep textual and semantic analysis to social conversations.  By gaining the ability to mine social conversations for sentiment, trends and names, they deliver extremely rich contextual business intelligence.  Collective  Intellect has focused their software on the social media spaces.

Way back in 2008 while working at Oracle I wrote:

A BI engine can create a concept map based on term frequencies, term proximities and term usage. When combined with metadata classifications and transactional data, an organic classification structure begins to surface. Mapped against topics, groups, or classification phyla, specific semantic ontologies begin to emerge. These organic ontologies can then be used as the basis for BI inferences that produce predictions for users.” In B-eye Network Magazine

Four years later, my prediction has been borne out and I am excited to see where it goes.  Added to their recent acquisition of Vitrue and being similarly placed in the Oracle cloud, Collective Intellect looks to position Oracle as a premier source for social media business intelligence.  This is the critical ingredient in the third, and best, approach outlined above.

But Oracle is not alone in recognizing this space.  SalesForce.com, already owning Radian6 has recently acquired Buddy Media. And Adobe is still blazing the trail with their prescient acquisition of Efficient Frontier which completed early this year.

This space is hot and more innovation and acquisition is likely as businesses and brands realize that understanding the customer (whether B2C or B2B) is the most effective way to engage the customer.

Resources & Links:

Oracle announcement of the acquisition

TechCrunch review

Collective Intellect on SlideShare

This article originally appeared on SocialBusinessNews.com

Oracle To Buy Vitrue – In Depth

Oracle Buys Vitrue
screen grab from Oracle’s presentation on the Vitrue acquisition

Oracle buys Vitrue (pronounced Vi-true)

It seems Oracle is getting religion on social…again.  This time they have acquired a multi-tenant SaaS social media management platform firm named Vitrue for a reported but unconfirmed $300M.  The big news with this acquisition is that Vitrue provides the software and analytics for big B2C businesses to management engagement across their various social properties.  You know, the ones we all use like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+.  This is a big deal for B2B oriented Oracle who usually likes to force customers onto their platform – WebCenter, PeopleSoft, Siebel etc..   Native Oracle products like WebCenter “Social Network” are squarely focused inward at the organization rather than outward.  Recent acquisitions like Fat Wire, Taleo, InQuira, ATG, RightNow all have an outward social, consumer/customer engagment or listening component to them but all (so far) fall into the familiar Oracle model.  Roll it into the Oracle product stack, sell the stack to customers to use internally or as middleware for pretty front-end systems, repeat.

The Vitrue acquisition is different.  First, Vitrue provides a completely cloud based product with no on-site software.  Second, Vitrue enhances, *other* platforms and it does so in bite-sized pieces (see the list at the end of the article or just take a look at Vitrue’s website).  Third their product is a high-touch, high-service product. This is something that brand managers and marketers keep coming back to use for each campaign.  It is something that, try as they might, Oracle could never achieve with Siebel, Real-Time-Decisions, WCM, Sites or WebCenter.  In short, Vitrue would be the first outward focused offering available from Oracle.

According to Oracle’s published FAQ (PDF), they intend to, “…add Vitrue’s products to the Oracle Cloud to deliver the most comprehensive, integrated social relationship platform that can support social marketing, sales, commerce, service, data and analytics.”  This is huge.  All of the other Oracle public cloud offerings, from CRM, to HCM to “Social Network” are inward focused.  They are SaaS versions of back office utilities.  If Vitrue lands in the Oracle cloud it could become a useful tool from Oracle that helps businesses do better interacting with customers and constituents rather than with their own employees data processes.  Of course, Vitrue’s interest and development into social analytics and reporting is a natural draw for Oracle’s data business.  Think about what Oracle could do with all that aggregated Vitrue social analytics data if the SaaS offering takes off!  They could become to social data what SalesForce’s Data.com is to CRM & Contact data.  Of course, the reported $300M price Oracle paid for Vitrue is hardly considered huge.  But the recurring subscription revenue model is a big shift for Oracle who usually relies on heavy-handed maintenance payments from one-time big sales.  They’ve been beaten up in the past for their less-than-friendly tactics.  But a SaaS model where people opt-in to pay for a service gives Oracle the recurring revenue and puts a friendly face on it.  It could be a very good move for Oracle’s image.

I am eager to hear what competitors in this space think.  SalesForce’s Radian6, Lithium, Buddy Media, Zuberance, Adobe’s Efficient Frontier and others all have a stake in this game.  Contact me with your personal opinions – billy.cripe AT bloomthink.com

Vitrue has several different price points but according to their CEO, a typical starter package is reported to be at about $4000/month (PDF) for management of a Facebook page and Twitter account.  They are focused on big B2C organizations since lower end social management is teeming with free/freemium services like Buffer and Shortstack.

Virtue provides the following kinds of services:

  • Analytics – Social analytics for things like social listening (what are people saying about us, who has problems, who is cheering our product right now)
  • Publisher – Status and update queuing (think scheduling tweets and Facebook wall posts but coordinating it with blog posts, marketing campaigns etc for a holistic social marketing drip campaign management)
  • Tabs – Vitrue’s CEO Reggie Bradford describes these as “…content management system across your social properties.” (PDF) They incorporate translations/geo-aware targeting and scheduling.  The WebCenter Sites and Content as well as ATG and InQuira teams may want to sit up and take notice here.  Enterprising Oracle partners might want to build a connector to leverage content from one of Oracle’s many content management systems for Vitrue’s social scheduling tabs.  While tabs as such have been pushed to the background in the new Facebook Timeline layout, they still exist and are still important for things like landing pages, contests, contact forms and events.  Even more important is having coordinated messaging, themes, timing and content between  the social and traditional email, physical and event-driven marketing campaigns.
  • Social commerce – this is their ability to help businesses sell goods through facebook (and maybe Google+) which they do through partners.
  • They also have a program of offerings and tool sets enabling social media agencies to implement the strategy they create for their clients.
  • You can watch a demo of their product on their facebook page

This blog post is my own opinion.  I received no information from anyone from Oracle or Vitrue.

2012 Trends in ECM

Burning Man from Hector Santizo via Behance
photo from Hector Santizo via Behance

Here are some links to predictions about ECM trends for 2012.  Which are likely?  Which are bunk?

Reliving 2006?  Maybe – http://protikmukhopadhyay.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/2012-ecm-trends/

The view from EMC – some seriously inverted predictions here – about what you’d expect from EMC http://emccrazycontent.com/2011/12/27/top-5-ecm-trends-in-2012/

Nails mobile, cloud & open source.  Overly optimistic on CMIS http://www.wewebu.com/en/blog/5-trends-will-drive-ecm-market-2012

A good explanation but not sure if these are trends or just market analysis.  In 2 parts. Part 1: http://www.cmswire.com/cms/information-management/information-management-will-never-be-the-same-2012-enterprise-cms-trends-013604.php  Part 2: http://www.cmswire.com/cms/information-management/enterprise-cms-will-never-be-the-same-2012-enterprise-cms-trends-part-2-013715.php

Predictions in a trade show brief.  Well Tapping trends is how they drive attendance so their livelihood is tied more closely to being right.  Pay attention: http://www.cebit.de/en/about-the-trade-show/topics-trends/news/ihre-persoenlichen-cebit-news-2012/your-cebit-news-cw-49/ecm-trends-in-2012-social-mobile-cloud

Simplicity for the win: http://infiniteblend.blogspot.com/2012/02/upgrade-to-more-simple-and-other-ecm.html

These are all fun reading but the last one has my vote.  Simplicity reigns as the overbloated ECM suites struggle with adoption and realization of all their promises.

Remember that Simplicity Raises Adoption.  Adoption Boosts Consistency.  Consistency Achieves ROI.

Evolution in CM – Cloud CM is Agile’s Disruption of Dinosaur Enterprise Content Management

Dont You Want Spiney Plates TooThis article originally appeared on CMSWire.  There is an evolution happening in the world of content management.  The giant platform systems that have worked to consolidate every functional permutation into one program are simply too big.  They have so much computational flexibility and capability that they have become unwieldy.  After all, massive flexibility is not the goal.  Machine code and a compiler are the most flexible options open to computer users.  But nobody in their right mind wants to build a business solution that way.   The result is legacy ECM dinosaurs offer the convenience of a “buy” solution but force customers into a build situation.  It is the worst kind of bait and switch.  Waves of startups and cloud ECM firms are taking advantage of dissatisfaction and disrupting the dinosaurs.

Evolutionary Disruption

One indicator of disruption in a market is that legacy vendors in that space start fighting over the smaller pool of the high-end market. This is because the high-end market is the only place left where they can compete.  The mid-sized and low end markets are overtaken by more relevant, agile and less expensive (aka “elegant”) alternatives.  Meanwhile the legacy vendors scoff at the startups and their lack of “enterprisey blah-bitty-blah functionality”.

It is the same as dinosaurs snickering at those hairy mammals for how very small and un-dinosaur-like they are.  So the dinosaurs fight with each other over who gets invited to dinner.  Incentives and swaps are offered in an effort to jockey for a better seat at the table.  Meanwhile the start-up mammals are exploding in population.  They’re smaller, agile, easier to deal with and have almost no bloat.  The Stegosaurus of legacy ECM decries the mammals’ lack of truly impressive spine plates.  And it is true. The mammals lack some features and functionality that the dinosaurs have perfected.  But the world is changing.  There is very little need for spiny ridges anymore.

Different Needs

Cloud content management is one of several specials of small furry animal that are happily eating the dinosaur’s lunch.  They have thrown away the starting assumptions of the dinosaurs and focused on a particular need. That content can be successfully and sufficiently managed in the cloud is just one assumption they’ve adopted.  That businesses value convenience over complexity completeness is another.

Agile Sprint Board
Agile Sprint Board. Image Cite: Creative Commons Attribution: Some rights reserved by Plutor, Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/plutor/5260265039/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Consider another evolution in business: Agile project/product management.  This methodology values atomic tasks, minimum viable products, continuous iteration and explicit tracking.  Everything is modular, measurable and minimal.  You do only what is needed to solve the current problem (aka “story”) and let the rest stay in a backlog until it is pulled forward by an explicit need.  This approach to solving problems places an emphasis on the minimum rules, tools and technology that are needed and deemphasizes the extras.  As a result, you will see agile boards in highly productive offices that are full of very low tech – post-it Notes and 3×5 cards and push-pins.  It is low tech sure, but high tech is not needed to achieve the goal. Adding it only increases friction with users, the time it takes to perform a task and management overhead.

This same Agile paradigm is driving the ascendancy of ECM cloud solutions.  Lower the friction with users.  Focus on solving one problem (e.g. sharing documents with colleagues).  Don’t invert the relationship between business goals and the systems that support them.  As soon as managing a content system becomes a business goal something is wrong.  Managing content is not the goal of most businesses.  It is a way to do business more efficiently.  As such it is a support system; an important one to be sure.  The legacy dinosaurs would do well to recognize that customers are wising up to what they actually need.  Their risk of being caught without some piece of key functionality is being addressed by a market full of fill-in-the-gaps apps and integrations.  The cloud content management systems are a next step in the evolution of information management.  The dinosaurs will linger.  Some are even trying out the cloud themselves.  Some are making their own clouds.  But without a change in mindset that better matches the customer’s thinking, their chances of making it is slim. Their food supply is running out.  The mammals will watch as they fight each other for the last scraps.